"In daily life we must see that it is not happiness that makes us grateful, but gratefulness that makes us happy." Brother David Steindl-Rast

Sunday, July 31, 2016

At This Moment

Today I am grateful for a nice wedding anniversary yesterday and for this moment; right here,
right now.

It has been busy with many things going on and needing attention. They are all blessings, but they can also get me a little spun up. So this morning it is about this moment and this moment only.

Right now I am sitting on our back patio enjoying:

-a quiet Sunday morning neighborhood
-cool air
-birds singing
-my first cup of coffee
-a prayerful pause

That's it. That's all. And it is more than enough.


Saturday, July 30, 2016

6 x 3 = 18 years! Happy Anniversary❤️

Today I am grateful for safe travels and for my husband Darcy and our marriage.

In honor of our 18th anniversary today, here is a 6 x 3 gratitude list I want to share so he and anyone reading this knows how much I appreciate, respect, and love him:

We have shared goals.
-putting family first in both words and actions
-working to stay healthy overall in the ways we can control
-keeping a clean and maintained home

He is my favorite running partner.
-getting up early so many Saturdays to get a training run in
-sharing marathon experiences including the 12 we have started together and
the 3 we finished together . . . so far
-the fact that we agree on being non-competitive and using the Galloway method

He is a wonderful father.
-his children look to him for advice and stability
-he broke a pattern that needed breaking
-he has fully embraced being a grandpa

A good temperament.
-his hearty laugh when something is really funny to him
-he is good at defusing me when I am worked up/anxious about something
-he gives himself time to unwind and relax after work and on weekends,
which is a good reminder and example to me

The head massages he treats me to. 
-he gives really good ones that usually put me to sleep
-I think they help my fine, thin hair stay fuller
-he is generous with his time

He is a supportive and forgiving spouse.
-Darcy respects my recovery from alcoholism and the time I need to give to it
-we discuss options, we don't tell each other what to do
-he forgives and forgets better than I do

Happy Anniversary and I love you Darcy! 

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Quiet Desperation

Today I am grateful for the morning quiet and coming daylight that help me start my day with peace.
I am also grateful for fewer times of quiet desperation in my own life.

I witnessed someone the other day showing a little desperation, or that is what it looked like to me. It wasn't an emergency, but you could hear it in the person's voice and body language. It had to do with money. My first thought went to someone that edgy needing money for an addiction.

My second thought was deep gratitude that I am no longer an active alcoholic. I had times of desperation when I made choices I am not proud of. I survived and continue to recover.

Quiet desperation. We have all been there, in one way or another. Sometimes it is a short trip. Other times it is a long stay. What I have learned through regular gratitude practice is this: life fluctuates and flows, sometimes with joy, other times with pain, and often with some of each. When I tune in to what I already have, I do much better than when I pine away for what I don't have. 

It is that simple. I try not to complicate it with too much thinking.

I will be taking a blog break for a few days.
Have a good rest of the week, a day at a time, a moment at a time. 

Monday, July 25, 2016

Good Miles, Bad Miles

Today I am grateful for our son Sam's health. He had his well-child check and physical a few days ago. I am always relieved when things check out okay. And I am grateful for time with our grandson Leo and witnessing how he experiences the world.

I am also grateful for wisdom shared by others. One of my recovery friends, with many years of sobriety, was just talking about having "good miles and bad miles" over the years.

I would be lying if I said I never had any good miles in my using days. There were fun times and laughter. There was escape from worry and fear. There were hilarious memories. But most of those came before alcohol got a stranglehold on me-which really didn't take long.

Today when I think of good miles, I first go to all the running miles I have logged. Some have been easier and more enjoyable, others more difficult. They have all been good miles. I am deeply grateful for the thousands of miles I have logged, solo and with my husband and others, and humbly grateful to continue adding them up.

When I think of bad miles, I think of the miles I drove when I should not have been driving. Or the miles my mind traveled in the worst of my self-pity. I survived and got on a better path.

Those bad miles are part of my journey, but I am glad they are mostly in my rearview mirror today.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

A Very Big Open House

Today I am grateful for a bed to sleep in and a washer and dryer that works. I take both for granted much of the time, when many others go without either.

Yesterday we attended the biggest open house event I have ever been to. It was an opportunity to get a free look at the just opened U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, new home of the Minnesota Vikings. Skol Vikings!

We drove in rain, very heavy at times. (Thanks for driving Darcy.) We waited in a long line, sharing an umbrella. We walked the tour with hundreds and thousands of others and took a seat in one of the sections they had open. It was fun and not something you do every day. We were impressed with what we saw and look forward to being there for an event or game in the future.

I took several pictures and in the end chose this one to post:

A sail on a Viking ship and a cloud-shrouded city skyline. The picture only tells so much. You had to be there. That's the point. Be present for life today. Show up and pay attention!

Friday, July 22, 2016

So Sew

Today I am grateful for easy access to clean water and how refreshing a shower
can feel on a hot day.

Sewing has become something of a lost art. Though for me, it was never an art. It was a project/assignment in a class I think was called Coed Consumer Living when I was a high school freshman. The skirt I completed was never actually worn. The crooked waistband, among other things, kept me from parading around in it. (Those who knew me as a youngster would say I didn't like to be in anything dressy or too girly-girly.)

My mom and several of my sisters were good at sewing and I was impressed with their skills and end products. It just wasn't one of the things I cared to try much.

In the few years since that class, the extent of my sewing has been limited primarily to replacing buttons and small mending and hemming jobs. For years, anything bigger than that and I would take it home to my mom. Now, I am willing to pay someone else to do it.

As I did one of those button replacements last evening, I appreciated that I could do this simple task. I was grateful for my eyesight-strong enough to thread the needle and find buttonholes. I was thankful for fingers nimble enough to maneuver the needle. Not to mention the fact that I have plenty of clothes to wear in all seasons, and some will lose a button from time to time.

So a little bit of sewing brought a healthy dose of gratitude. 

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Time as Teacher

Today I am grateful for my friends and a newcomer at breast cancer support group last evening, and for the years of combined living we have since our diagnoses.

Years. Months. Days. Minutes. Moments. Precious time, no matter how it is measured. I appreciated my sister Danita's most recent post on her blog "Aging Wrinkles and Wonders" titled
What Time is It? 

I read the honest words of my sister and paused to consider my own perception and use of time. It is usually easy to find the literal answer to "What time is it?" It is a far deeper endeavor to explore what I am doing with my time. Is it well spent or wasted?

Time is to be cherished, yet I can squander it as well as anyone. Make no mistake, doing nothing and squandering time are NOT the same thing. Sometimes pausing, resting, sitting and doing nothing is the best use of time. Squandering is wasting it in worry or waiting or wondering what to do.

Is my time going to who and what I love? Isn't that really the goal of a rich life?

Time will continue to unfold in minutes and hours. The trick for me is how I experience that unfolding. Overdoing and overthinking? Or pausing and practicing presence?

Danita's post ended with this quote:
"Time is a great teacher, but unfortunately, it kills all its pupils."  (Louis Hector Berlioz)

Am I waiting to be killed by time, or am I living the lessons it has taught me?

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

The Blessings of Blogging

Today I am grateful for self-forgiveness and for hats that keep sweat out of my eyes on a run.

Now that I have two blogs I am writing, I am feeling even more focused. And more blessed. It took me some time to get comfortable with this format, but now I am. What I really appreciate and could not have anticipated is what this format allows me as a writer.

I can compose a post in a few minutes if I wish (though my other blog takes more planning). I can write a draft in my notebook or on a piece of paper, or use my phone on the go to get one started. Often, like now, I use our computer.

I am old-fashioned and still hang on to the significance of putting pen to paper. I always will do some of that. It is the most direct path from heart, to head, to hand that I know.

The real blessing of blogging though, is that I make time for it. I post to "Habitual Gratitude" usually pretty early in the day. So before I have done too many other things, I have honored my writing and my gratitude practice by giving them each some time. What a gift. What a healthy and calming way to start the day.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Adding Up: A 3 x 3

Today I am grateful for time with friends last evening and for the way gratitude practice has multiplied the amount of peace I feel.

One of the practices I sometimes use is a little equation I have dubbed 3 x 3, but any combination works. I create a list of three gratitudes, and then I give 3 reasons why each of those three bring me appreciation. 

1. My friends in recovery

a. They understand me in ways no one else can.
b. Compassion and unconditional love anyone?
c. We share mutual respect. 

2. Laughter

a. It creates more laughter.
b. It means I am comfortable with those around me.
c. Like a smile, it means the same thing in all languages.

3. My breast prostheses

a. They help my clothes fit better. 
b. They can be easily cleaned.
c. Always a perky pair.

Consider doing your own 3 x 3 and I welcome seeing it in the comments. Have a good day!  

Monday, July 18, 2016

The Key to Everything

Today I am grateful for traffic sounds that tell me it is business as usual here. I am also grateful for my sense of smell and what it is helping me enjoy on this crisp morning.

A few days ago, a lost set of keys impacted our lives in a few ways. All those ways were minor, in the whole scheme of things. But it was not without some frustration and a budding resentment on my part. 

Then, my recovery and gratefulness training kicked in. Acceptance of what I have no control over is always helpful, but especially in these kinds of circumstances. I let go of the frustration and anger and considered how I could be helpful. 

Was I inconvenienced? Sure. Did I have to adjust my plans? Yes. Did it all work out? Yep. As I offered assistance in the form of going to get a new set of keys for a vehicle, I ended up having time to myself to reflect on what had transpired. 

Here is what I concluded: The key to everything in life is accepting what I cannot change (other people, places, and things) and focusing on what I do have some say in--my own attitude and 
actions. Today I will strive to be a contributor, not a contaminator.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

The "Tough Mudder" Experience

Today I am grateful for the successful completion of the "Tough Mudder" yesterday for my husband and stepson. I am also grateful for a wave from a friend in recovery as he drove by this morning when I was out walking our dog. 

It is a real experience to experience the "Tough Mudder" event. It began with a long wait in a line of cars. Thankfully, there were some well-placed porta-pots in that line for both participants and spectators. 

We knew we were finally getting close to the venue when we saw this:


The day included 10 + miles and 20 + obstacle options for my husband Darcy and stepson Arthur. Quality father-son time. Hours on the course. Mud everywhere by the time they were done. But they got done and were still in one piece and I am very grateful for that.

My son Sam and I logged a few miles of our own as spectators and saw Darcy and Arthur in action on the course numerous times. Unfortunately, we missed them finishing. That was a disappointment but not a detriment to what was an overall interesting new experience for all of us except Arthur. 
He is now a 3-time Tough Mudder finisher. I am proud of both of them! 

There were thousands of participants and spectators yesterday. Each with their own unique experience of the event. And their own reasons to be grateful. Mine included the safe finish for my loved ones, being able to be there to support them, and by day's end things like showers, a working washer and dryer, and a good meal for some hungry folks.

Friday, July 15, 2016

15 Random Facts . . . Read These, Share Yours

Today I am grateful to have a house to clean and for fellow writers in the blogosphere and beyond.

Fellow blogger Nancy Stordahl at Nancy's Point is a writer whose work I both respect and enjoy reading. Her latest post was a fun one that just begged to be followed up on. She shared 15 random facts about herself and encouraged readers to join in and do the same. I didn't take the opportunity the first time she did this last year, but it grabbed me this year.

So I started my list yesterday morning after reading her post and here is what I came up with:

1. Ice cream always soothes me.

2. With the exception of Clay County, Iowa where I lived for 6 years, every other county I have
resided in has a name of Native American origin: Minnehaha, Poweshiek, Winnebago, Dakota,
Black Hawk, and Winneshiek.

3. I am the youngest of 8 sisters. I also have 5 brothers.

4. I didn't travel by air until I was 30.

5. My favorite hangover "cure" in my drinking days was an ice cold Mountain Dew.

6. I was going to keep my maiden name, until I met Mr. Valentine.

7. When I started teaching, I took so many notes to prepare for lessons/lectures that callouses
developed on my right index and middle finger. (No computer for me then.) It took years for the callouses to go away.

8. It can take me weeks to read a book-I tend to fall asleep quickly. Not bored, just tired.

9. My "favorite" household chores since childhood have been sweeping/vacuuming floors
and making beds.

10. A couple of my favorite T.V. series over the years have been Cheers and Sex and the City.

11. When alone in my car, the radio is often LOUD.

12. I love consignment store and clearance rack shopping.

13. From an early age, I was a collector. Things I have collected include rocks, matchbooks, and wedding napkins. (Those last two would be harder to collect today wouldn't they?)

14. I had my first cell phone (a flip phone) for 7 years. Who does that anymore?

15. I like the jokes on Laffy Taffy.

It was fun to think about random things as I went about my business of the day. It wasn't too hard to come up with 15. When done, it amounts to a gratitude list of a different kind. Life is interesting. We are each interesting.

Thanks for the idea Nancy! Who else wants to join in?

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Time Together

Today I am grateful for time to spend with my mother-in-law this week, and also for good burgers and even better ice cream. 

It seems fitting that this was today's quote on www.gratefulness.org:

"Our fates are tied. We have this strange notion on this planet that our fates are
not tied. If it were not so we would not be here together. It's that simple."
(Luisah Teish)

It is that simple. My husband is here because his mom is here. Our son is here because my husband and I are here. Destiny plays a part in how all of this came to be, but the point is, it came to be.

We came to be. We are here. Together. Let's honor and appreciate the time we have. It is precious.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Theophany

Today I am grateful for beautiful skies when I pause to look at them. I am also grateful for an ever-expanding vocabulary.

Theophany was a new word for me when my friend Germ mentioned it in April as the title of her upcoming book. "The presence of God" is something I seek and can find when I am mindfully grateful.

Here is the front cover of my copy of the book, which was published in May. Germ wrote the powerful poems that comprise half of the book. Her friend Lois Tschida took the stunning pictures that make up the other half. 


Between the beautifully woven words and pictures, I do feel and see the presence of God, or Great Spirit, or whatever name you choose to give to a deity. The pictures inspire awe and the words motivate understanding that is felt as much as read. Together, the words and pictures bring the viewer/reader to deeper grace and humility. Thank you for sharing your gifts with us Germ and Lois!

I wrote this post titled "Grounding" about Germ's thoughtful wisdom in February of 2013. Germ and I no longer work together, but she continues to make a difference to me and many others. Her writing gets to the heart of the matter-from pain, to healing, to joy.

Check out her website at www.thecenterforhealing.us. If interested in purchasing this book or her first book titled Between Lost and Found: A Guide to Finding Wholeness After Abuse, both can be found
here.

What I love about this book is that it will be one that I pick up often. A couple pictures or poems in a couple minutes and I will be reminded of what really matters. I will be brought back to center. Balance. Calm. Faith.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

The Pace of Recovery

Today I am grateful for how it feels AFTER hill repeats are done. I am also grateful that we are able to help my stepdaughter Emily with her son Leo, and for my mother-in-law Marlene's visit.

The pace of nature isn't the only one that relies on patience. Patience is also needed when pacing oneself in recovery. That recovery could be from a recent surgery or sports injury, or it could be from active addiction.

Patience is not necessarily one of my strong suits, but experience has taught me just how well it can work. Even when I want to rush post-surgery or post-injury recuperation, I know now that the best thing is rest, time, following medical advice, and incremental improvement. Too often, I hear about people doing too much too soon and regretting it. Patience in healing. Our bodies deserve it.

The patience it takes to grow in recovery from alcoholism and other addictions is a different kind of patience. There's a reason why a common mantra among people in recovery is "One day at a time." It took most of us years to hit bottom, to get to the point where we surrendered enough to let help in.

We can't recover from years of use and abuse, and broken thinking, in a matter of weeks or months. It takes time to learn to live and think differently. Those gradual lessons are the ones that make all the difference and allow recovery to continue.

Patience and acceptance help set a good pace for today. 

Monday, July 11, 2016

The Pace of Nature

Today I am grateful for friends in recovery who are there when I reach out. I am also grateful for the words that find their way out of my head and onto pages.

In recent days, we have had a rainy evening and a rainy morning. Not just a shower moving through, but hours of fairly steady precipitation. In both instances, plans needed a little adjusting. But they weren't big plans and flexibility was pretty easy.

Even if it wasn't easy, flexibility would still have been necessary. The weather requires it, especially where we live.

This quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson furthers the idea:

"Adopt the pace of nature. Her secret is patience."  

It's going to rain as long as it will rain. That flower will bloom when it is ready. The fruit on the trees will ripen in their own time.

In an age of instant gratification, which arguably is eroding us in many ways as individuals and as a society, let's take this reminder from nature. Patience. 

I can't train for a marathon in a week. But I can't beat the awesome feeling of crossing a finish line after running 26.2 miles, and that after training for months. I can't build a solid relationship with another person without time and effort being invested, and plenty of face to face communication. 

Patience. Seek it for yourself. Give it to others.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Seldom

Today I am grateful for my mother-in-law Marlene's visit and for our front and back patios and the enjoyment we get out of each. I am also grateful to see our son Sam play with his little nephew Leo.

Yesterday on my run, I saw this train car stopped with a few other cars on the bridge in our downtown. I think it's artwork versus anything official, though it was a bit hard to tell. It caught my eye and I took a quick picture.

Then it caught my mind. I had a few more miles left on my run, and I pondered seldom things.

I seldom:
-run out of reasons to be grateful
-fear for my safety in my community and in general 
-go to bed angry
-am lonely
-wonder why I keep writing
-feel bored
-feel sorry for myself anymore
-compare my insides to other people's outsides
-lose hope and motivation

And the key to all of these positives? I seldom forget to practice gratitude.

Friday, July 8, 2016

Humankind. Be both.

Today I am grateful for a sunrise beckoning a new day and for the underlying hope it brings with it.

I recently saw this sentiment on a bumper sticker:

Humankind. Be both.

What else is there to say? News reports tell of troubled times, within the borders of the nation I live in, and worldwide. Fear and outrage run neck and neck. Violence seems to lead to more violence, even amidst efforts to peacefully protest, heal, and unite.

It is disheartening and heavy. I can only listen to so much of the news coverage before it gets
turned off.

And yet, there is hope. There is always hope in humanity if we each do our part to be kind to one another and ourselves. We can each start there today. Let's look one another in the eye, give a friendly hello, and do what we can to add to the positive stream of life. 

Thursday, July 7, 2016

The Fruits of Our Labor

Today I am grateful for enjoyable family time, good food to share, and the ease of electricity.

Last week my mom and I went out and picked raspberries together a couple afternoons. We picked both the yellow and red varieties. The yellow are sweeter, in my opinion, but I pretty much like any kind of raspberry. It had been quite some time since I had picked raspberries, and pleased with our efforts one day I took this picture of the fruits of our labor:


Some of my siblings and other family members might recognize the plastic measuring cup on the left. That thing has been in the family for decades. It worked well for this task because it is lightweight and has a handle.

As we picked, a few things struck me. My mom asked me to hold the cup because she was worried she might drop it. She also appreciated me joining her because she was pretty sure I would see more berries than her, with her vision worsening. 

The fact of the matter was that I missed many ripe berries at first glance too. The bushes were really leafy and full. You could only see more fruit with a change in perspective and a little more effort.

Isn't that the way life and gratefulness are too? You only have more fruit to pick when you keep looking and keep working.

My mom may be getting more frail, but she hasn't stopped searching for and finding the fruits of her labor. Come to think if it, I am one of the fruits of her labor. The least I can do is keep producing gratitude and keep contributing what I can in this world.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Passing Storms

Today I am grateful for a visit with Darcy's family, for flashlights, laughter, and safety during recent storms.

(I am posting from my phone this morning, so I can't guarantee what the format will look like.)

This is the time of year when passing thunderstorms are not uncommon in our humid climate. We had some strong ones move through last evening. Wind, rain, and lightning put on quite a show. Then, we lost power. That was about 10 hours ago and we are still without it. 

We are not alone, as news reports say over 140,000 in our metro area have been impacted by power outages. It will affect our plans for today and require some patience and flexibility, but we are fortunate it is just a power outage.

The storms in some people's lives have  caused devastation and floods of grief. I am thinking about my friend's young nephew who just died of cancer, never reaching his 10th birthday. And those with active addictions, creating tornadoes  of their own and a widening path of destruction as they continue to use.

The storms of cancer and alcoholism have rolled through my life too. Yet, I am here, alive and well on my 51st birthday. There may not be any electricity running right now, but gratitude is running deep and strong.

The "Wonder" of No-Bake Cookies

Today I am grateful for an awe-inspiring fireworks display last evening and for the tradition of having ice cream on the 4th of July.

When I was at my mom's last week, I made a batch of no-bake cookies which we also called "Wonder Cookies" back in the day.  Here they are before we started to devour them:


They are easy to make and ready within minutes really. No need to turn the oven on. And I would add that they are mighty tasty. What would you expect when the ingredients include oatmeal, coconut, cocoa, and peanut butter?  

I made a pan of chocolate chip bars another day on our visit. It was fun to pull out old church recipe books and find the various ingredients around Mom's kitchen. It was nice to see my son and brother enjoy the treats when they stopped in the house between various farm chores. 

Simply wonderful sweet treats always bring a smile (to me anyway). But there is also simple wonder in pausing and appreciating my current surroundings. Simple wonder in being grateful to have this day ahead. 

Monday, July 4, 2016

240 Years

Today I am grateful for the rights and freedoms I inherited when I was born on American soil. I am also grateful that I have individual freedom from alcoholism when I work on daily recovery.

From July 4, 1776 to July 4, 2016 totals 240 years. When our forefathers took the bold step of declaring independence from Great Britain all of those years ago, could anyone have guessed where our nation would go? Could anyone guess where the United States of America would be today?

I have posed two rhetorical questions knowing that 240 different citizens would answer those questions in 240 different ways. Some would focus on the superpower status we grew into and the cherished freedom that still drives us. Others would focus on what we gained, then lost, and how we are floundering in our political, social, and economic affairs as a nation.

How would I answer these questions? I would point to the civil rights victories that have been achieved and I would point to our tenacity to keep our nation safe and secure. I would share concern about social issues that continue to be divisive and about the income gap that still leaves a few with the most wealth and many struggling to live comfortably.

And then I would finish with this. Doing my part. My voice and my vote matter. I exercise them. My daily actions matter more though. I live in deep gratitude for the freedom I have and for all those who gave their lives and those who continue to put their lives on the line for the rest of us to remain free.

I strive to live with a tolerant and accepting attitude and to look for the similarities among us, rather than focus on the differences that separate us. I remind myself that if I am proud to be an American, I bet that person in front of me in line is too. Common ground as a starting point.

Sunday, July 3, 2016

A Father's Funeral and a Memory Unit

Today I am grateful for safe travels and good visits with friends and family. I am also grateful for the farm time and experiences my son Sam got.

When I was visiting family this past week, I was able to attend the funeral for my friend Melissa's father. Her father had suffered significant physical pain in recent months and years. The family found some comfort in the end of his pain. Melissa also shared a wonderful story about faith, golf, and coincidences. It is their story to tell, but I am grateful I heard it. It reminds me of the power-human and beyond-that allow for smiles of hope through grief.  

I also went with my mom to visit her sisters-in-law, my aunts, in the nursing home. Sad to say, but I had not been there in a long time. Too long. I appreciate that we went this time though. One aunt is 90 and still sharp of mind, even though her body betrayed her with MS decades ago.

My other aunt is 85, just a few months older than my mom. She had been moved to the memory unit in recent weeks. It was difficult to witness her agitated and confused state while we were there, but that is the nature of dementia. Some days are better than others.

My mom and I left after visiting briefly. I can only guess what it is like for Mom to visit there and then be able to return to her fairly independent life. I know what I was thinking when we left though:

Life is precious. Life is fragile. Treat it as such. Every hour of every day.